Hepatitis B (cont.)
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If an individual has acute hepatitis B, a health care practitioner will draw blood and examine the person periodically to see if the infection is resolving. If the person develops chronic hepatitis B, they will need periodic examinations and blood tests on an ongoing basis. If these tests indicate that the virus is actively damaging the liver, the health care practitioner may suggest a liver biopsy or begin antiviral therapy. The individual will also be given a vaccine against hepatitis A, which is an unrelated virus that may cause severe liver disease in people who already carry hepatitis B.
Chronic hepatitis B is associated with hepatocellular carcinoma. Fortunately, this is a rare cancer. A blood test can be used to detect a marker for this cancer or the cancer can be detected by abdominal ultrasound. Persons with chronic hepatitis B are usually screened periodically (every 6 to 12 months) for hepatocellular carcinoma, although it is not clear if this screening improves survival.
Bhupinder Anand, MD
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